Thursday, 29 December 2005


Christmas, wow what an experience that was. Rather interesting to be seeing it from a completely different perspective from usual. Best of all though was that it was really fun! The main challenge was to cook Christmas dinner over the fire, well it wasn't just a challenge it was more a necessity; failure to cook would mean a failure to eat anything decent and that really isn't an option on Christmas day. Cunningly I had decided to roast a venison joint in a pit oven, I say cunningly but I'm not sure whether deciding to do this when I had never used, or even seen a pit, oven in real life before was such a fine example of joined up thinking. I have read about the things and I did read a bit about them in Ray Mears' book on Christmas eve when I was in a book shop killing time as I waited for the return of my wallet. The trick is to dig a pit, build a fire in it and then add some big flat stones. Once the stones are heated through the fire is removed leaving behind a healthy pile of hot embers and the stones which are covered with a thin layer of earth, then comes the food wrapped in leaves, then another thin layer of earth followed by a large hot stone and then the whole lot is buried and left until the food is cooked. What could possibly go wrong?I had rekindled the fire from the previous night to make breakfast, tea, toast and mince pies so I transferred it to the pit. The advantage to this is that the sticks I was using could be leant up against the side of the pit rather than lain flat thus encouraging the flames to spread upwards; soon I had a roaring blaze going. There was a small problem when it came to large flat stones though. Lewknor soil yields a healthy crop of both chalk and flint whilst both stones have their uses neither appear to be available in either 'large' or 'flat'. Chalk appears to be to be rather porous and I assume that it would not therefore hold heat for very long. Flint is very hard and I thought this would make the perfect heat source for the oven but over Dinner a couple of days earlier my Brother in Law told me that Flint is prone to explode when heated. This soon got turned into my jugular being severed by a piece of flying flint and then collapsing face first into the fire; the post mortem concluding I had decided to cook myself. I decided against using flint. Fortunatly I had aquired two large pieces of cast iron that looked as though they maybe useful so one of those was put into the bottom of the pit before the fire was built up and the other was leant against the side ready to be tipped onto the food once suitably heated.

Thats all I have time for today I'm afraid - there should be some more by Tuesday.


Xphjklyfg said...

It is amazingly difficult to find more information on the web about suitable stones for use in fires. Everyone says "take care" and no-one that I can find gives much useful information on which types to avoid. I suspect that that is because accidents are actually very rare, so the information is not really important.

The conventional wisdom is that you should not use stones which may contain moisture, so do not collect them from a stream bed or a damp location. I would think that chalk lumps collected anywhere would fail this test. This info is found in many places, for instance,

The US Army survival manual I found did not talk about moisture in rocks, but air pockets, saying avoid limsetone and sandstone (and presumably chalk).

About flint, I found one reference saying that it explodes on heating and another saying it is sudden cooling of hot flint that will make it explode -- as in dropping a hot rock into liquid to heat the liquid. I guesss an accidental spill while using flint for fire edging could be nasty, even if it hadn't exploded on heating.

I had an interesting time browsing survival sites for this info. It would be good to read a round-up of what you consider essential/useful/good value when (or if?) you find a set of kit that suits you.

Hugh Sawyer said...

Xphjklyfg, is that your real name?

Required kit list is at the moment constantly evolving but it is becoming more settled as I begin to figure out what I am doing. I am certainly a lot more competent after a few days in the woods over Christmas than I was before, I'm begining to feel quite confident about what I'm doing. Well I have always felt confident but now I feel as though there is some justification behind it. Thanks for all the links, I'll check them out. I guess the reality is that type of stone that you would use will be dictated by your location rather than choice.


Juggling Joe said...

Hello there Xphjklyfg, there are 3 rock type things that should not be used with fire. Flint, Rocks from a river bed and Concrete. Also there's one major type of soil that you shouldn't light fire in: Pete soil, because there is a danger in setting the ground alight, and also in the fire going underground and appearing somewhere several metres away. I've studied survival a lot and that's the extent of the limitations i've really came across. Juggling Joe